The 1916 GPO flag-pole
This small section of the GPO flag staff, on which the Union Jack had traditionally been flown, is a recent donation to the An Post Museum. It is part of a somewhat longer section found amongst the rubble of the burnt-out building by one of the men contracted to clear up the debris and formed part of a private collection of 1916 and related memorabilia. The piece shows signs of cracking and is split in one place, evidence of the great heat generated by the fires that consumed the building and much of O’Connell Street during the rebellion.
A small section of the 1916 flag-pole recently donated to the An Post Museum & Archive
While our museum in the GPO must unfortunately close at the end of the month to make way for ongoing work on the new 1916 Witness History centre, the An Post Museum & Archive will, of course, continue its work to preserve items of postal historical interest and to promote a greater awareness of the important role played by the Post Office in the development of so many aspects of Irish life over the generations. I would certainly echo my colleague Saoirse’s sentiments in relation to our Letters, Lives & Liberty exhibition in the GPO museum. It has been fun to meet so many different types of visitors over the last few years – tourists and locals, school children and pensioners, architects, historians, philatelists, designers and fellow postal workers. In creating this museum, my aim was to open up the Irish postal world and use it to introduce some of the subjects – transport, printing, finance and design, as well as Irish administrative and political history – that have been connected with the Post Office over the centuries. It has been rewarding for us to hear from so many people who enter the museum expecting just to learn a bit about stamps and leave it amazed at the impact the Post Office has had on Irish life. That has been the measure of the museum’s success over the last five years.
The physical GPO museum will close on the 30th May 2015 but we shall continue to use our website and other channels to provide a virtual display of and information on some of the material that was there, adding new things from our archive collections from time to time. Keep your eyes open too for occasional talks or touring exhibitions or for items that we may display elsewhere – like this pillar box that we recently provided for the departures area of Dublin airport – an enduring and friendly symbol of Ireland for people leaving our shores.
Assistant Secretary & Museum Curator
This is a big year for stamp collectors as they mark 175 years since the world’s first adhesive postage stamp was introduced back in 1840. The little square of black paper with a finely engraved profile of the young Queen Victoria has become an item that many collectors want to have. It’s not that expensive a stamp – it’s significance lies more in being the “first” and in what it meant for people who wrote letters. At just a penny, it really opened up correspondence, news and education for people who were formerly excluded by the high cost of postage.
The stamps were used in Ireland, of course, since the Royal Mail covered both Britain and Ireland at that time and the interesting story of how one very early Penny Black came to be used on a letter from Dublin to London in May 1840 is told in a little booklet, which contains an exact replica of the letter and stamps, available from our philatelic department.
The Fitzpatrick – Thomas Letter of 1840
This year we are not only celebrating Christmas but also two hundred years since the foundation stone of the GPO was laid in 1814. There will be free entry to the An Post Museum from the 8th December till Christmas Eve so do come and take a look at our exhibition, Letters, Lives & Liberty, and if you drop in at lunch-time, you’ll also be able to join in with the traditional carol singing in the Public Office.
Have a very Happy Christmas.
An Post Museum and the GPO are closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Keep an eye on this page and our social media channels to keep up to date with details for events at the An Post Museum – GPO Dublin.
While the Post Office has long carried letters, its role in parcels is not so old. During the nineteenth century, carriage of parcels was by road carters and subsequently by the railways but towards the end of the century the Post Office entered this market and following the adoption of the Post Office (Parcels) Act in 1882, letter carriers were renamed postmen and the parcel post became part of the Department’s wider services. it was a move that proved very popular with the public though it meant a big change for the Post Office and its staff. This Christmas card from the An Post archive, sent to staff in Tullamore in 1886, offers fraternal greetings from the Dublin parcels staff. Today, the rise in online shopping means that parcel traffic is again very important for the Post Office.
Infectious disease is something very much in the news at present and serves as a reminder of another ailment that was very much feared in Ireland and continues to be so in many parts of the world. Consumption, an older word for tuberculosis, spread rapidly in areas of overcrowding and poverty and was the cause of death for many thousands of people here. The establishment of national sanatoria, a better understanding of the disease and a more caring attitude towards those who suffered from it, in addition of course to antibiotic drugs, brought great improvements but vigilance remains necessary. The Post Office, as a place where people met and transacted business, provided a space where the Postmaster General could bring the disease to the attention of people and point out one very common form of transmitting it.
Over the centuries a great many people have worked for the Post Office in Ireland and I regularly receive enquiries from people who are trying to piece together their family history. It’s well-known that a great deal of Irish historical material has been lost and the GPO’s role in the 1916 Rising means that Irish postal records suffered a like fate. Occasionally, however, it is possible to find out information that does help people in their research and the case of Thomas Hollinshead is one such.
The portrait, by Lawrence of Dublin, shows the distinguished figure of Thomas Hollinshead, an Englishman whose family was long settled in Staffordshire. He had joined the privately owned Electric Telegraph Company in 1854 and, when telegraph work was taken over by the Post Office, found himself a postal employee. He moved to Ireland and transferred to the survey branch of the Post Office, being appointed Assistant Surveyor of the Irish Midland District from 1884. He ended his days in Wales and died in 1910.
Thomas Hollinshead GPO surveyor (donated by family)
The photograph was kindly donated to the An Post Museum & Archive by his descendants when the Canadian and Irish branches of the family joined up and met me in the GPO recently. When, a couple of years ago, I received similar genealogical enquiries about Thomas Hollinshead from both Canada and Ireland, it was rewarding to be able to reunite family members who had lost touch over the intervening generations.
This rather splendid chair with its sedan style hood used to sit in the entrance hall of the GPO in Dublin. The porter on the Prince’s street side of the building, at what was known as the Minister’s entrance, to the GPO used to sit in this and welcome visitors from his unusual vantage point. This type of chair was often found in institutional settings and in the hallways of grand houses. I am unclear as to its origins and how it came to be in the GPO after 1916 but it is an interesting piece in our collections and can currently be seen on display in an exhibition – The GPO – Two Hundred Years – running at the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion square, Dublin.
Heritage Week at the An Post Museum will be taking place from the 23rd August to the 30th August 2014 here in the GPO Dublin. Please note that the GPO is closed on Sundays.
Heritage Week is a great way for people of all ages to discover and explore Irish history and heritage.
Here at the GPO Dublin, the An Post Museum will be open for free from 10am to 5pm.
There are a number of special tours organised for the week-long festival exploring the history of the Irish Post Office.
Free tickets are available through Eventbrite.
It is 200 years since work began on Dublin’s famous GPO, headquarters of the Irish Post Office, city landmark and command post of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. To mark the occasion, we’ve decided to give free entry to the Museum on the anniversary, Tuesday 12th August, so do drop in to the GPO and acquaint yourself with the building and some of the people and the events that have gone on here in the GPO over the last two hundred years. During the month Mercier Press will be publishing a new book about the GPO by our Curator, Stephen Ferguson, and we’re also planning to run, at the end of the month and into September, a little exhibition on the history and architecture of the building in co-operation with the Irish Architectural Archive in Merrion Square in Dublin.
So now is the time to visit one of Ireland’s iconic buildings, one that has been at the very heart of Irish life for two centuries.